Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Police Performance
Sleep deprivation is comparable to excessive drinking. A sleep deprivation study found that not sleeping for 17 hours impaired a person's motor skills to an extent equivalent to having an alcohol toxicity of 0.05 percent. Not sleeping for 24 hours was equivalent to a toxicity level of 0.10 percent. This level of deprivation would impair speech, balance, coordination and mental judgment.
Sleep deprivation can cause work-related accidents. A study found that four out of eight officers involved in on-the-job accidents and injuries were impaired because of fatigue. Such accidents include automobile crashes that were due to officers' impaired eye-hand coordination and propensity to nod-off behind the wheel. Other work related injuries come from accidents that occur when officers have impaired balance and coordination.
Research shows that fatigued officers:
- Use more sick leave.
- Practice inappropriate uses of force more frequently.
- Become involved in more vehicle accidents.
- Experience more accidental injuries.
- Have more difficulty dealing with community members and other law enforcement agencies.
- Have a higher likelihood of dying in the line of duty.
Despite the impact of fatigue, many officers continue to work double shifts, triple shifts and second jobs. Some work well over 1,000 hours of overtime a year. Excessive work with inadequate rest over a long period of time can make officers sleep-deprived — 53 percent of officers report an average of 6.5 hours of sleep or less.
[note 1] Dawson, D. and K. Reid (1997). Fatigue, alcohol and performance impairment. Nature. 388:235.
[note 2] Vila, B.J. (2000). Tired Cops: The Importance of Managing Police Fatigue. Washington DC: Police Executive Research Forum.
[note 3] Vila, B.J. and D.J. Kenney. (2002).
Tired cops: The prevalence and potential consequences of police fatigue (pdf, 6 pages). National Institute of Justice Journal. 248:16-21.
[note 4] Dijk, D.J., D.F. Neri, J.K. Wyatt, J.M. Ronda, E. Riel, A. Ritz-De Cecco, R.J. Hughes, A.R. Elliott, G.K. Prisk, J.B. West, and C.A. Czeisler (2001). Sleep, performance, circadian rhythms, and light-dark cycles during two space shuttle flights. American Journal of Physiology. 281:R1647-R1664.
Date Created: January 6, 2009